Alfred Street Junction Design

Work on the new Alfred Street cycleway continues apace.

Bollards have now appeared, but it is now clear only half of them have been installed. With rather predictable results:

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Poppo goblin keeping the spirit of "bin lane" alive

DRD are monitoring the situation. Even if the remaining wands are placed drivers can simply drive into the Cycleway at any of the conveniently placed access points for alleys, loading bays, car parks and side streets.

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As much as I hate the bollards for their potential hazard to cyclists, DRD need to install them, as they did at Ormeau Avenue:

Another consequence of using fewer wands than planned is the lack of protection at junctions.

The Cyclesaurus is dead. It is replaced with a broad green track across the junction. However, at present, only paint separates cars and cyclists.

I urged DRD to install more protection for cyclists at junctions, but there appears to have been a change in the plans meaning there is now less protection:

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The red dots mark where wands should have been placed. The separating white line extends up to the raised junction with two wands on the raised section of the road.

Here’s what’s been installed:

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The line now stops at the incline with the final wand some way before the junction. According to the plans the final wand should have been roughly where this pedestrian is crossing.

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What the picture also shows are the tyre tracks of cars turning into Franklin Street.

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Motorists marking their territory

The lack of wands gives the corner a wide radius, so drivers need not slow down as they turn across the cycleway. This is not safe.

At the Ormeau Road end the junction is simply terrible. Southbound cyclists are positioned to the right of Alfred Street. Car drivers coming off eastbound Ormeau Avenue turn in and pass to the left of the cyclist.

I called it a “fudge” at the consultation event in May 2015. It is worse than a fudge. It is dangerous.

Practically, it is impossible for cyclists to turn right on to Ormeau Avenue. The design of the cycleway should have included some means of crossing safely.

Again, the wide radius of the corner gives the driver no incentive to slow down. The driver will be disconcerted to see cyclists emerging onto the shared space section of the junction.

I understood that the Ormeau Avenue entry was meant to be a continuous footway.

The above is a continuous footway. What we have here:

This Alfred Street track is still being built. I hope enough time remains to fix the errors and increase the track’s safety.

This plan is meant to set a new standard for cycleways across Northern Ireland. It does already, despite serious shortcomings. It needs to be better.

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Bin Lane Binned?

On Thursday a little bird told me that DRD were having an information event at their HQ in Belfast’s Adelaide Street.

Here is the press release.

We weren’t given much notice. Yet I found myself with a spare 30 minutes, grabbed a Belfast Bike from Bradbury Place and went to inspect the plans.

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On offer were two versions for an improved two-way cycleway between Chichester St and Ormeau Ave, one with the cycleway to the east, the other to the west (the current situation). The plans are designed to improve the network of paths between Belfast Bike Hire stations at Arthur Street, Alfred Street and the Gasworks.

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East

And:

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West

The plans are not yet finalised and many details remain to be resolved.

Cycling Unit staff were open to suggestions and ideas. For instance, having parked cars act as protection for the cycle lane was suggested by a number of people and I got the impression DRD would look at this variant.

Some of the “details” are quite serious.

There is an obvious gap in provision on Ormeau Avenue. Currently a short stretch of shared use path connects the Gasworks site to Joy Street. Are DRD proposing to extend the shared use path to the next junction? Or is something better in the pipeline, perhaps a protected cycleway all the way from the Gasworks to Blackstaff Square?

The importance of this missing link will become very evident when the Gasworks Bridge opens. More cyclists will use the routes leading to the bridge. A similar gap exists at Shaftesbury Square where there is no eastbound cycle lane or crossing connecting Donegall Road and Donegall Pass.

It would be better for the Cycling Unit to start a discussions with the DRD Dinosaur Unit that is still looking to implement the Southern section of Belfast’s inner ring, so blocking any development along Ormeau Avenue (and blighting the area with fenced off surface car parks). Plans for a gyratory to take traffic between Cromac Street and Bruce Street should not stop the development of a cycle path along the Avenue. Ormeau Avenue is wide enough to reallocate space for cycling.

I suspect the gap is left in the plans as leverage for further budget and development. A holistic large-scale area-wide approach may well be unpalatable to the car lobby within DRD.

A second issue is the Advanced Stop Lines in the design. Why? Why in the UK are cyclists abandoned when they need protection most, i.e. at junctions? The lane needs to come right up to the junctions. The design plans for the May Street crossing are a case in point:

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The minor junctions in the design are designed right: the lane carries across the side road; and priority is given to the cyclists over traffic emerging from side streets. I’d prefer a little more hard protection at the corners to stop drivers left- or right-hooking.

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The Cyclesaurus Memorial Junction

The good news is that the Cyclesaurus is going to die. At last (see design above). However, the issue of cyclists needing to cross the carriageway (and pass each other on the right side) has been moved to the path’s entry points at Chichester Street and Ormeau Avenue.

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West fudge

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East fudge

The designers have drawn a patch of shared space to fudge the ends. But as above, good design at the junction can sort this out.

One big disappointment is that Upper Arthur Street remains open to cars. What is the rationale behind this? There are two on-street parking spaces in one version, none at all in the other. Why do cars need access at all? There needs to be access for deliveries, emergency services and collecting refuse, but I struggle to see the need for any other motorised vehicles.

As you drive down May Street a sign directs you down Upper Arthur Street for access to the Montgomery Street and Victoria Square multi-storey car parks:

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Sign on May Street

It appears DRD see Upper Arthur Street as a shortcut to access city centre multi-storeys.

One of the principles underlying Groningen‘s successful cycle strategy is making drivers go the long way around, but giving cyclists, pedestrians and public transport direct access. Here, motorists are given a sneaky shortcut, consequently access for pedestrians and cyclists is compromised.

When you pass this sign you have already passed Montgomery Street. But the street’s one way direction is “wrong”. And arguably the person who ignored the previous right turn on to Victoria Street to access Victoria Square should not be rewarded with a shortcut to make up for their foolishness.

To access the multi-storey the direction of the one way Montgomery Street could be reversed between May Street and the car park entrance. Cars exiting can leave the area by Gloucester Street and Seymour Street.

All things considered, would it not make sense for Upper Arthur Street to be closed off for motorists, allowing for the carriageway to be used as a cycle route and increasing outside space for the street’s cafés and restaurants? Here’s an example in central Utrecht, photographed by @cyclingchch:

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I don’t often advocate the removal of a cycle path. Here, removing cars and the infamous bin lane are probably the best solution.